January 29, 2013
Two Years In The Forbidden City
First hand account of experiences of Empress Dowager Imperial household by Princess Der Ling; 1st lady in waiting to the legendary HIM Tzu Hsi . Born a christian daughter of Imperial China Minister. Dowager Empress and the goverment were oblivion to her and her existence till they reach early adulthood.
Each Manchu official required to register their children birth; which her father obviously didnt. Instead his children received western education parallel his liberal thinking. His previous during that time ambassador and foreign minister afforded him this opportunity.
Main reason behind this move is to avoid Der Ling and his sister being selected as Imperial Concubine. ( Concubines were selected among daughters of high ranking)
Among fascinating facts & trivia became known after reading this book:
1) Dowager Empress and Emperor will take their lunch and dinner first. The remainder will be eaten by ladies in waiting including Empress. Empress and ladies in waiting had to eat the dishes standing since they replenished themselves in Sovereign dining room. Its the custom and etiquette that existed since generations; not due to barbaric nature of Empress Dowager.
During the stay of American painter, Miss Catherine Karl; The Empress Dowager provided them with seat(of course not imperial dining chair) to sit during lunch and dinner. The decision is to avoid misinterpretation by Miss Karl regarding the treatment received by ladies courtiers as degradation of women.
2)Actually HIM not interested to have Miss Carl to paint her potrait at all. 1st Oil painting is a new concet to HIM. 2nd it required HM to allow Ms Carl to stay and have access to the palace for quite sometimes; which is national security reasons. This project was brought forward to HIM by the ladies of American embassy to show their countrymen the beauty and different faces of HIM.
This Ms Carl had painted Princess Der Ling before during her stint in Paris. After showing the potrait of hers and personl observation of HIM that Der Ling loved to see Ms Carl again; HIM agreed to have her potrait painted. ( Miss Carl had also published a book regarding Empress Dowager)
3. HIM Empress Dowager invented several games quite like Monopoly genre. Beside HIM created and produce threatrical screenplays.
4. Her Majesty appreciated intelligence of her people and despised compliment when its insincere and unmerited. HIM very observance of body language which gave her tell tale sign of her courtier and official.
Regarding Her keen observation of unspoken language; as example presents received during her birthday was scrutinized. ( Each of her people required to wrote down their name and gift. HM had excellent memories to remember each belong to whom) HIM will in exchange gave them presents on par with value of labour of love taken by them when representing their gift to HM.
5. The chair that had been seated by Empress Dowager and Emperor called small throne and no other people can seat there once HIM had seated on that chair even one time.
6. The author of this book received the rank of Princess during her second year in service.This is very important because some people had been calling Der Ling impostor to style herself princess. The author was not princess by blood but an Imperial Princess by Decree issued by Empress Dowager. ( similar to Princess Soraya Esfandiary who be made Imperial Princess of Iran after her divorce from Shah by special decree)
Overall this book had been written in an entertaining yet informative style that satisfied the curiousity of the readers.
I expected myself to be boring for my not so 2familiar with China Imperial Dynasties but i cant put this book down till i finished all.
In otherword above my expectation.